Medical anthropologists have identified several major eras of human disease, starting with the Age of Pestilence and Famine to the stage we’re in now, the Age of Degenerative and Man-Made Diseases. In 1900 in the United States, the top-three killers were infectious diseases: pneumonia, tuberculosis, and diarrheal disease. Now, the killers seem to be largely lifestyle diseases: heart disease, cancer, and chronic lung disease. Is this because antibiotics allow us to live long enough to suffer from degenerative diseases? No. The emergence of these chronic disease epidemics seem to have been accompanied by dramatic shifts in dietary patterns, best exemplified by what’s been happening to disease rates among people in the developing world as they’ve Westernized their diets.
In 1990 around the world, most years of healthy life were lost to under-nutrition, such as diarrheal diseases in malnourished children. Now, the greatest disease burden is attributed to high blood pressure, a disease of over-nutrition. The chronic disease pandemic has been ascribed in part to the near-universal shift toward a diet dominated by animal-sourced and processed foods—in other words, more meat, dairy, eggs, oils, refined grains, soda, salt, and sugar.
In 1776, each American consumed about 4 pounds of sugar annually. That had risen to 20 pounds by 1850 and 120 pounds by 1994. Today, we may be closer to ingesting 160 pounds of sugar every year, half of which may be fructose, taking up about 10 percent of our diet.
Even researchers paid by the likes of The Coca-Cola Company acknowledge sugar is empty calories without essential micronutrients. Concern has been raised, though, that sugar calories may be worse than just empty. Mounting evidence suggests that, in large enough amounts, added fructose in the form of table sugar and high fructose corn syrup may trigger processes that can lead to liver toxicity and other chronic diseases.
Under the American Heart Association’s sugar guidelines, most American women should consume no more than 100 calories per day from added sugars, with the maximum for most American men being 150 daily calories. That means one can of soda could take us over the top for the entire day.
The World Health Organization recommends we reduce our added sugars, along with consumption of salt, trans fats, and saturated fats, because consumption of such foods may be the cause of at least 14 million deaths every year from chronic diseases.
Image Credit: Pixabay. This image has been modified.
Popular Videos for Sugar
All Videos for Sugar
The Health Effects of Mycoprotein (Quorn) Products vs. BCAAs in Meat
Clinical trials on Quorn show that it can improve satiety and help people control cholesterol, blood sugar, and insulin levels.
The Health Benefits of Sorghum
Learn why sorghum is one of my favorite new grains.
Do Vitamin B12 Supplements Cause Acne?
Acne can be triggered in one in ten people who get vitamin B12 injections.
The World’s Largest Fasting Study
Buchinger modified fasting is put to the test.
Vegetarians and Stroke Risk Factors—Omega 3s?
Does eating fish or taking fish oil supplements reduce stroke risk?
Do Vegetarians Really Have Higher Stroke Risk?
The first study in history on the incidence of stroke of vegetarians and vegans suggests they may be at higher risk.
The Immune System and COVID-19 Treatment
Are there immune-boosting foods we should be eating?
The Role of the Toxic Food Environment in the Obesity Epidemic
Implausible explanations for the obesity epidemic, such as sedentary lifestyles or lack of self-discipline, serve the needs of the manufacturers and marketers more than the public’s health and the interest in truth.
The Role of Corporate Influence in the Obesity Epidemic
Like the tobacco industry adding extra nicotine, the food industry employs taste engineers to accomplish a similar goal: maximize the irresistibility of their products.
The Role of Food Advertisements in the Obesity Epidemic
We all like to think we make important life decisions like what to eat consciously and rationally, but if that were the case we wouldn’t be in the midst of an obesity epidemic.
The Role of Taxpayer Subsidies in the Obesity Epidemic
Why are U.S. taxpayers giving billions to support the likes of the sugar and livestock industries?
Cut the Calorie-Rich-And-Processed Foods
We have an uncanny ability to pick out the subtle distinctions in calorie density of foods, but only within the natural range.